Goodbye, EDM. Welcome back, trance. As if we weren’t impressed by the inaugural Dreamstate in 2015 wooing members of the #TranceFamily from around the world, Insomniac upped the ante for its second SoCal incarnation in San Bernardino. Expanding from one stage to four on November 25 and 26, each space reflected a different element of the varying genres found under the trance umbrella. Speaking of umbrellas, even the rain on night two couldn’t dampen spirits.
While the only stage in 2015 was housed in the NOS Events Center’s Damus building, 2016 saw the construction of the outdoor Dream stage. This massive 260-foot long megastructure was adorned with nearly 1,000 video tiles, 20 lasers and more than 800 LED fixtures that lured ravers like moths to a flame. Though the crowd at the main stage often expanded beyond the back of the structure, it was the Damus building, dubbed The Sequence stage, that had the most persistent swarm of people clamoring to get in. This was due to the line-up focusing on a psy trance format and the growing number of fans drawn to the subgenre. Often at capacity, those that managed to get in for sets from artists such as Infected Mushroom and Astrix were among the lucky ones.
Not to say that The Sequence stage was the only one going off, it was just the only one we couldn’t get into every time we tried. The crowd packed in early at The Dream and The Vision stages as well, but each had more room to start with. The Timeless stage was mostly off our grid for the weekend as there were so many great artists to hear that happened to be playing at the same time.
The biggest names in trance took control of The Dream stage for both nights, highlighting superstars such as Gareth Emery, Cosmic Gate, Aly & Fila and Kyau & Albert. However, some artists still played it safe and went the more commercial route with their sets, such as ATB cranking out the usual hits for a one-dimensional hour that left us wandering elsewhere for something that had more energy and creativity. We went seeking and found Will Atkinson, who was playing at the same time on The Vision stage, which became a trusty home base for most of the festival.
While psy trance may have reigned supreme judging by the masses left out in the rain, the trance OGs arrived early and made a beeline for The Vision stage. Housed in another permanent structure at the NOS center, even Saturday’s opener Kristina Sky got the party started off right with 138 BPMs and all the energy of a primetime slot, which she really should be given in the future. Her hands were a flurry across the mixer and CDJs, dancing and singing along with the crowd to tracks that included her mashup with Randy Boyer of Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren vs. Mike Foyle for ‘Beggin’ You x Head Rush’, as well as her collaborations with Orla Feeney called ‘Insubordinate’ and ‘Audacious’.
Another artist that should have also been given a better timeslot was the legendary Christopher Lawrence, who still packed them in at 7pm and delivered one of the best sets of the weekend. As the booming announcer introduced Lawrence with poetic references to his tracks, the applause welcoming him to the booth was fitting of his veteran status. Highlights included a rousing version of Mark Sherry meets Space Frog & Derb for ‘Follow Me (Psyburst Mix)’ as well as Lawrence’s own track versus Orpheus ‘There Is A Place’ to kick things off, plus closing with his No Comment collaboration on ‘Horizon’, as well as the Lostly remix of his track ‘Banshee’.
Ben Nicky properly ‘Headfucked’ the crowd, slamming through a frenzy of tracks for his lightning quick style, running through double the number of tracks of most other artists including his own ‘Chapel Street’ and, appropriately, ‘Hectic’. He also worked in plenty of his own edits, such as Pop Art’s ‘Disco Madness’ and Mark Sixma feat. Emma Hewitt’s ‘Restless Hearts’. (Side note: The visuals and DJ logos were not properly adjusted for the triangular shaped screens framing the booth and often cut off awkwardly, which was particularly distracting and noticeable during Ben Nicky’s set).
Another astounding set on the same stage came courtesy of Menno de Jong, who may take the cake for the best hour of the weekend. Working in a remix of the classic ‘Gamemaster’ by Lost Tribe near the beginning was a nostalgic fan favorite, as was de Jong’s collaboration with Adam Ellis on ‘Set To Sail’. The seamless journey concluded with his signature track featuring Noire Lee, ‘Creatures Of The Night (Adam Ellis Mix)’.
It was also nice to see Paul van Dyk back in action with a set on The Dream stage, running through many fan favorites, but Ferry Corsten presents Gouryella after him dropped the energy immensely. Thankfully, Simon Patterson was on at the same time and The Vision stage one again was the place to be as Patterson energetically banged out the beats and wrapped Dreamstate up on an emotionally powerful note.
Originally published in DJ Mag USA